Health Foods 101: Kombucha

Everything you need to know about this fermented drink.

Health Foods 101: Kombucha
(Source: Instagram/meggshank)

Everyone wants to eat healthy, but not everyone knows where to start. Whether you're trying to lose a few pounds or looking for an extra energy boost, food is the foundation for positive results. To help you navigate the grocery aisles, we're starting Health Foods 101 and breaking down popular ingredients, why they're good for you and how to eat them with the help of experts. 

Up this week: Kombucha, according to Daina Slekys Trout, MS MPH, nutritionist and CEO at Health-Ade Kombucha.

What it is:
Kombucha is fermented tea rich in probiotics (enzymes, bacterias and yeast) and healthy acids. It consists of four ingredients: water, tea (usually black or green), sugar and SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It takes anywhere from 14 to 30 days to ferment. "It has been around for thousands of years and used in countless cultures to promote health," explains Trout. "Most notably, people talk a lot about how it beneficially impacts their gut and improves digestion."

Its nutritional value:
Aside from probiotics and enzymes, naturally brewed kombucha is also low in sugar and caffeine. Trout says that there hasn't been a lot of formal research on kombucha, but "anecdotal evidence demonstrates many claims of digestion and immunity, as well as boosts in energy and metabolism—all things that make sense and align with research done on probiotics." She adds that in any diet overall, holistic and natural foods are always best for the body, and probiotics from fermented food like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and the like are a better choice than pills.

Health benefits it yields:
After stressing that our grocery store shelves are stocked with alarmingly over-processed items, Trout makes the point that our food is "dead upon receipt—there's very little that's alive in our food anymore," she notes. "[This] means our guts that rely heavily on the existence of probiotics in our diet are becoming more and more out of whack; there should be more probiotics in our gut than there are stars in the Milky Way." Fermented food and drinks, like Kombucha, is a way to get a healthy dose of "alive" food to replenish the body.

How much you should drink:
"Our bodies are magnificent at managing our health if given the right fuel," says Trout. "We don't have to have a fermented food every single day to be healthy. The idea is, ingest them more." She suggests you start out with a few times a week and check in with how you feel. "Worry less about the amounts and do what makes you feel good, not just now but also five hours from now," adds Trout. 

Recipe to Try: Ginger Kombucha
You can find Kombucha on the shelf from companies like Health-Ade ($5 each). Or, you could DIY at-home recipes like this one found at The Kitchn. Click here for the full recipe. 

Health Foods 101: Kombucha
(Source: The Kitchn)
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